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Center for Art Law Case Updates

Republic of Turkey v. Christie's, Inc., 1:2017cv03086 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 28, 2017) A U.S. Court has granted Turkey 60 days to verify that it is the lawful owner of Guennol Stargazer, a 5,000-year-old, marble statue originally found in the Gallipoli Peninsula in the Eastern Thrace of Turkey (https://www.dailysabah.com/turkey/2017/04/29/battle-over-ancient-relic-pits-ankara-against-christies?mc_cid=9214b948a0&mc_eid=8a2eda70d8). Upon discovering the statue, Turkey brought action against Christie's for auctioning Guennol Stargazer in its April 28th "Exceptional Sale" for approximately $14,000,000. (http://www.christies.com/salelanding/index.aspx?intsaleid=26907&saletitle=&mc_cid=9214b948a0&mc_eid=8a2eda70d8)

Thrasher v. Siegel, 2:cv-17-3047 (W.D.CA, Apr. 24, 2017) Last month a street artist, Monte Thrasher, brought action against Marci Siegel, for ordering the destruction of his mural "Six Heads" without giving the artist the 90 day notice required by the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) (http://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Bukowski.pdf?mc_cid=9214b948a0&mc_eid=8a2eda70d8). Thrasher claims that Siegel was operating a bar inside the building on which "Six Heads" was painted and that she planned to replace it with a mural promoting her business. The complaint notes that "Six Heads" achieved great renown in the Los Feliz area it occupied since the mid-1990s. Thrasher seeks punitive damages and the opportunity to restore "Six Heads."

US v. Erik Ian Hornak Spoutz a/k/a Robert Chad Smith, a/k/aJohn Goodman, and a/k/a James Sinclair (C.D.N.Y., Feb 16, 2017) Michigan art dealer Erik Spoutz was sentenced to 41 months in prison for wire fraud charges arising out of his sale of dozens of forged artworks purportedly by renowned postwar American artists, such as Willem De Kooning, Robert Indiana, and Joan Mitchell. He allegedly started to sell forged works of art as early as 2005 under various aliases. Despite Spoutz's attempt to provenance for the artworks, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Adams declared: "Spoutz falsified a complex series of seemingly original documentation of each piece's provenance: bills of sale, letters from art dealers, correspondence from prior owner's estates, etc." (http://theartnewspaper.com/news/michigan-art-dealer-sentenced-to-41-months-for-running-modern-art-forgery-scheme/)

Pulphus v. Ayers, Civil Action No. 17-310 (U.S.D.C . Arp. 14, 2017) A high school student, David Pulphus, whose artwork ("Untitled #1") won an art competition and was chosen to be displayed in the halls of Congress, filed a federal lawsuit because his work was removed from the Cannon Tunnel in the U.S. Capitol Complex, after several Congressional members complained about the paintings as being anti-police. The painting depicts a confrontation between police and protesters on the street in downtown St. Louis, and two officers in the forefront have the heads of pigs or warthogs. The lower court denied the plaintiffs' request for preliminary injunction relating to the retroactive removal of Mr. Pulphus' artwork. It was found that the painting's removal did not violate the artist's First Amendment rights. An appeal is anticipated.

Naruto v. Slater 15-cv-04324, 2016 WL 342231, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 18, 2016). In January 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a copyright infringement suit brought by PETA on behalf of a selfie-taking, six-year-old macaque named Naruto (http://clancco.com/wp/2016/02/naruto-copyright-author-owner-monkey/?mc_cid=9214b948a0&mc_eid=8a2eda70d8). PETA alleged that the defendants, a photographer and publisher, unlawfully claim ownership of the photographs that Naruto snapped of himself while playing with Slater's camera. The court held that the Copyright Act does not extend standing to non-humans, and therefore the case was properly dismissed. On appeal, PETA stands by its original claim that Slater is not the rightful owner of the photographs. Oral arguments are scheduled for July 12, 2017. (http://clancco.com/wp/2017/05/hey-hey-were-the-selfie-taking-monkeys/?mc_cid=9214b948a0&mc_eid=8a2eda70d8)


The Center for Art Law strives to create a coherent community for all those interested in law and the arts. Positioned as a centralized resource for art and cultural heritage law, it serves as a portal to connect artists and students, academics and legal practitioners, collectors and dealers, government officials and others in the field. In addition to the weekly newsletter (http://cardozo.us2.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=78692bfa901c588ea1fe5e801&id=022731d685), the Center for Art Law subscribers receive updates about art and law-related topics through its popular art law blog (http://itsartlaw.com/blog/)and calendar of events (http://itsartlaw.com/events/). The Center for Art Law welcomes inquiries and announcements from firms, universities and student organizations about recent publications, pending cases, upcoming events, current research and job and externship opportunities. To contact the Center for Art Law, visit our website at: www.itsartlaw.com or write to itsartlaw@gmail.com.

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